Union representatives protesting the lockout of 85 workers at Continental Carbon Co.'s Ponca City carbon black plant created a stir at the June 26 annual meeting of one of the firm's Taiwanese parent companies.
Security personnel at the meeting of China Synthetic Rubber Co. in Taipei, Taiwan, prevented demonstrators from addressing company shareholders and board members, specifically over labor and environmental issues facing subsidiary Continental Carbon in the U.S. Brief scuffles ensued, and eventually the protesters were ushered out of the building.
Members of Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union Local 5-857 were locked out in Ponca City in May 2001. Since then, the union has waged a wide-ranging corporate campaign against Continental Carbon, staging protests domestically and in Taiwan, filing unfair labor practice charges and claiming environmental violations at the company's carbon black facilities.
Todd Carlson, chairman of PACE Local 5-857, said he and the group with whom he went to the meeting-including trade union representatives from American and Taiwanese labor organizations and environmental campaigners-were allowed inside as guests. But he didn't get a chance to speak on what's been happening at Ponca City and other Continental Carbon sites, he said.
He said his intentions were ``to make the stockholders aware that the CSRC board of directors has more interest in continuing the assault against union workers than providing maximum financial returns for its shareholders.''
Carlson and the labor group in Taipei did bring letters to the meeting from labor leaders and local politicians condemning Houston-based Continental Carbon's role in the ongoing dispute, and asking for the parent companies' help in ending it.
He also delivered petition signatures from citizens of Ponca City to the Taiwanese Koo family-which controls CSRC and Taiwan Cement, Continental Carbon's other part-owner-asking it to use its influence to stop the lockout and address the company's environmental problems.
``(CSRC is) denying any control in the U.S.,'' Carlson said. ``They say they consider them separate legal entities, and so anything happening here is Conti Carbon's decision.''
Continental Carbon officials didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
Most recently, PACE filed a lawsuit against the company June 21 alleging violations of federal hazardous waste laws at the firm's Sunray, Texas, carbon black site. Production workers in Sunray also are represented by PACE.
Legal action for alleged environmental violations in Ponca City may be coming, an attorney representing PACE said.
Amidst the demonstrations and litigation, no negotiations between the company and union have taken place in months, Carlson said. The frustration level amongst workers and their families is high, and many seem to want closure, whether the news is good or bad, he said.
``They're tired of being in limbo,'' Carlson said. ``One way or another, they want to know and, if necessary, move on. Right now, all we can do is keep fighting.''